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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004 Jan;29(1):195-207.

Amphetamine primes motivation to gamble and gambling-related semantic networks in problem gamblers.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2S1.


Previous research suggests that gambling can induce effects that closely resemble a psychostimulant drug effect. Modest doses of addictive drugs can prime motivation for drugs with similar properties. Together, these findings imply that a dose of a psychostimulant drug could prime motivation to gamble in problem gamblers. This study assessed priming effects of oral D-amphetamine (AMPH) (30 mg) in a within-subject, counter-balanced, placebo-controlled design in problem gamblers (n=10), comorbid gamblerdrinkers (n=6), problem drinkers (n=8), and healthy controls (n=12). Modified visual analog scales assessed addictive motivation and subjective effects. A modified rapid reading task assessed pharmacological activation of words from motivationally relevant and irrelevant semantic domains (Gambling, Alcohol, Positive Affect, Negative Affect, Neutral). AMPH increased self-reported motivation for gambling in problem gamblers. Severity of problem gambling predicted positive subjective effects of AMPH and motivation to gamble under the drug. There was little evidence that AMPH directly primed motivation for alcohol in problem drinkers. On the reading task, AMPH produced undifferentiated improvement in reading speed to all word classes in Nongamblers. By contrast, in the two problem gambler groups, AMPH improved reading speed to Gambling words while profoundly slowing reading speed to motivationally irrelevant Neutral words. The latter finding was interpreted as directly congruent with models, which contend that priming of addictive motivation involves a linked suppression of motivationally irrelevant stimuli. This study provides experimental evidence that psychostimulant-like neurochemical activation is an important component of gambling addiction.

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